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Council candidate gets $1,000 donation from mayor’s wife

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 3:17 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The wife of Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith donated $1,000 to the city council campaign of Amy Horton, according to campaign finance records filed with the state Board of Elections.

Word of the donation comes as the mayor, who is not on next week’s ballot, is under increasing fire for supposedly injecting himself into the race for city council.

On Wednesday, Smith again insisted he’s not participating in politics this fall.

“I’m not getting involved in this campaign, I’m not endorsing any candidate,” he told 7 News.

Smith said his wife, Millie, wrote the check to Horton. “If Millie wants to donate to somebody, she’s gonna do it,” he said.

“I’m not just the mayor’s wife,” Millie Smith said Wednesday afternoon. “I am my own person. I can think independently.”

Smith said she wrote the check to Horton because she believes Horton is “super-qualified” for a position on city council.

She said she wrote the check from the account of a company she and Mayor Smith jointly own, rather than a personal account, because the donation is deductible that way.

“I don’t need to hide anything from anybody,” she said.

(Editor’s note - To the best of our knowledge, political campaign contributions are not deductible, according to a wide variety of sources.)

She said she made the donation to Horton, and only told her husband after the fact.

Horton told 7 News, “Anyone who knows Millie, she is a strong, independent woman who does what she wants.”

She said she has not talked with Jeff Smith about the campaign, and said voters have told her there is too much focus on the mayor in the runup to election day.

Still, disclosure of the donation is likely to further roil a city council race in which the mayor is already accused of playing an outsized role, despite not being on the ballot.

“Is he campaigning against us? I mean, that’s his right to do that, I understand that, but he’s kind of inserting himself in it,” city council member Lisa Ruggiero said at a 7 News candidate forum broadcast earlier this week.

Horton is one of two candidates seeking a two year term on the council. The other is Patrick HIckey, who said of Mayor Smith in an email to reporters Wednesday “so much for he barely knows her and he’s not involved in her campaign.”

In a statement texted to 7 News late Wednesday afternoon, Horton criticized what she called “the fake news media,” who “has decided to zero in on the report I filed, while neglecting to question candidates who have not even taken the time to file - these are candidates who have made transparency a cornerstone of their campaign.”

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